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Matt Horn’s Oxtails with Sweet Barbecue Sauce

Oxtails with sweet barbecue sauce from the new "Horn Barbecue'' cookbook.
Oxtails with sweet barbecue sauce from the new “Horn Barbecue” cookbook.

If like me, you greatly admire people who persevere against punishing odds, then Matt Horn surely deserves your utmost esteem.

Read the first few pages of his new cookbook, “Horn Barbecue” (Harvard Common Press), of which I received a review copy, and it will just about break your heart.

In it, Horn recounts his earliest pop-up in 2016 in the broiling summer heat in Tracy. He had been up all night, readying his spareribs, pulled pork, and brisket that he set up in a cramped black tent outside Ralph’s Bar. Horn, who intended to stay there until all the food was sold, was joined by his wife, who was then eight months pregnant.

As the hours ticked by, the sweltering temperatures rose only higher. In that time, only one customer made a purchase. Just one.

Horn couldn’t have felt more dejected or more like giving up.

The last thing he wanted to do was to have to cart all that food back home — along with his wounded pride. So, he loaded it all up and drove to an impoverished part of town, where many were unhoused. He started doling out the food for free to eager and hungry folks. It was at that moment that he felt the true power of his cooking — the ability to connect and bring joy to people.

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